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Chapter 16 : Ask Away
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When I opened my eyes the next morning, the first thing I saw was an owl. I blinked once, twice, and then sat up straight in my bed, startled. There was nothing that freaked me out more than having an owl staring at me with a wide, judging look.
Well… except for the fact that said owl was holding a letter written in my mother’s unmistakable calligraphy. Because that freaked me out even more.
I hesitantly reached forward and grabbed the letter out of the owl’s beak, and once I had done so the owl flew away. I felt a short amount of relief at the fact that one of my problems (the way smaller one) was solved. I then looked down at the letter, bracing myself.
We need to talk. Go to Headmistress Chang’s office, immediately.
Yep, my mum was mad. More than mad. She was fuming. And I knew that there was definitely nothing pleasant waiting for me in the Headmistress’s office.
I looked around the room. Everyone was still sleeping, clearly tired from having stayed up late the night before. I hadn't returned until late myself, with James and I spending almost the entire night talking about everything, so I knew how tired everyone must've felt. Rose was curled into a little ball, with Molly sleeping next to her (it felt like Molly lived in our dorm, seeing as she hated all of the girls she shared a room with), and Dom had her body buried under piles of blankets and pillows. Our other roommate, Hattie, wasn’t in her bed, which I assumed meant she was at her boyfriend’s room, as usual.
I should’ve been sleeping too. But instead, I was now putting on my crispest dress, curling my hair into precise spiral curls, and applying my makeup as deliberately as possible. I knew if my appearance was anything less than perfect, my mum would only add that to her list of reasons as to why I was a disappointment as a daughter.
When I finished getting ready, I tiptoed out of the dorm. I made sure to close the door quietly behind me. I didn’t want to wake up anyone else and have them ask me where I was going. That would just require me to give more explanations, and I wanted to keep this to myself.
“Phoenix Tears,” I stated, my voice level as I watched the gargoyle in front of Headmistress Chang’s office spring to life. The staircase appeared, leading up to her room, and I took a breath- calming myself- before entering what I knew would be a conversation I did not want to have.
“Good morning, Natasha,” Headmistress Chang said as soon as I walked in, straining a smile on her face as she walked over to me and gave me a short hug. I paid no attention to her and instead looked behind her to my mother.
“Please, take a seat,” Headmistress Chang said again, gesturing to a seat in front of her desk. I took my seat tentatively, my eyes not moving from the figure standing behind Headmistress Chang’s desk, her arms crossed and corners of her eyes pinched. It was an expression I knew all too well. I looked down at my hands, waiting for the inevitable.
I heard the sound of a large sigh, before my mother finally began to speak, her voice laced with annoyance. “Natasha, before I begin, would you like to explain to me what happened?”
My mouth was dry, so I took this time to swallow before I spoke. I looked up at my mum and tucked a stray curl behind my ear. “I just… I had a previous engagement that I couldn’t break.”
“I’ve heard,” my mother responded, her tone cool. “Headmistress Chang has informed me that you’ve joined the Quidditch team. Would you like to let me know why you decided to keep that from me?”
I looked at Headmistress Chang who seemed to be shooting me an apologetic look, before my gaze shifted back to my mother. “I didn’t know it was important.”
My mother scoffed. We both know better than that. “You didn’t think, something that directly affects your future as Miss Teen Witch is a big deal?”
“It doesn’t affect my future…” I said, trailing off at my mother’s look of disbelief.
“Of course it affects your future. You ditched an interview we had scheduled for months. Do you realize how bad this makes not only you but me look?” my mum asked, her eyes narrowing as she stepped closer to me. “Do you know how much talking I had to do to convince Georgiana you were still devoted as Miss Teen Witch? Do you understand what you could’ve thrown away?”
“I…” I inhaled another breath. “I just really wanted to play in the game. I made a promise to my team. If I hadn’t played, we would’ve had no seeker and then would be forced to forfeit.”
“I see,” my mother responded, forcing a fake smile. “So then if it was so important, then answer this: Did you win?”
I froze. This was my mother’s idea of proving to me that everything I had done wasn’t worth it. To her, winning was the most important ends to justify a means. Something I’d just realized wasn’t true. But of course she wouldn’t understand. She never would.
“No,” I said, looking back down at my hands. “I couldn’t catch the snitch in time.”
My mother’s smile tightened in triumph.
“I see,” she stated, nodding her head. “Well, maybe the team was mistaken in counting on you. Especially when you have other obligations. I expect you to tell them you can no longer be on the team anymore. Understood?”
“But nothing,” My mum said, cutting me off. There was no room for argument. “Be lucky I’m not yanking you out of school for this.”
I bit my lip and let out a sigh. “I’m sorry.”
The tension in my mum’s shoulders seemed to release and her tense smile relaxed. “Well then, I hope you’ll understand me when I say another toe out of line will result in you resuming your homeschooling. Am I clear?”
I wanted to argue but I already knew I’d be fighting a losing battle. Anymore difficulty would just convince my mum that Hogwarts really wasn’t the best fit for me. And I knew that it was. So I had to swallow my pride and respond with—
My mum then clapped her hands together and turned to Headmistress Chang. “Good. Now that we’re done here, I really should be going. Thank you for letting me floo here under such short notice. I assure you that this shouldn’t have to happen again.”
“Oh it was no trouble,” Headmistress Chang responded, all the while still keeping her gaze trained on me. “Natasha really is a fantastic student.”
“I’m sure she is,” my mother responded not seeming at all impressed. She then turned back to me one more time. “Goodbye, Natasha. Remember what I’ve said, alright?”
“Okay.” And no sooner were the words out of my mouth than my mother had walked over to the fireplace in the Headmistress’s office and flooed away.
My mother’s exit left nothing but a staunch silence in her wake. Headmistress Chang kept giving me a look I could only describe as pity, and I continued staring at my feet. The clock behind the desk made a loud ticking sound. Counting. Waiting.
“I should head back to the dorm,” I said after a moment. “I’m sorry again for the inconvenience.”
Headmistress Chang nodded. I took this as my cue to get up and walk out of her office. Just as I was about to close the door behind me, she spoke.
“You don’t have to quit the team if you don’t want to.”
I whirled my head around, meeting Headmistress Chang’s eyes. She seemed like she had been waiting for a while to reach out to me, and only now had she had the opportunity. “I won’t tell your mum that you’re still on the team. I think… I think Quidditch is good for you, Natasha.”
I wondered how closely Headmistress Chang had actually been watching me, if she had the feeling that Quidditch was good for me. She would’ve hardly been able to tell from that one game, right?
And I didn’t know if I would stay on the team, but the fact that she was giving me a choice was something I hadn’t had in a long time. I offered her a small smile. And yes, it was forced, but it was all I had.
“Thanks,” I said, before turning around and leaving the office, with nothing short of a million thoughts jumping around in my brain.
Just because she had said Quidditch was good for me, didn’t mean that I was good for Quidditch.
“So, what are you going to do?” James asked.
Despite the fact that Scorpius had given us a two-week break after our first Quidditch match, James and I still couldn’t seem to break out of the habit of meeting with each other extremely late at night to practice. Although, since we didn’t quite have to practice, it was normally just me watching James fly for a bit, before eventually he would just sit down next to me on the Quidditch stands, and we’d talk. And now we had reached the part of the night where our talk started.
I sighed, tracing circles along the ground with my foot as I sat in the front row of Quidditch stands, my usual spot. “I don’t know. What do you think I should do?”
James shook his head. “It’s not my decision.”
I looked up from where my eyes had been trained on my feet and scrutinized James’ expression. I had hoped that after telling James the ultimatum my mum had all but forced upon me about Quidditch, he would’ve had some advice to give to me as to what I should do. I guess I’d been wrong.
“Right,” I responded. I then nodded my head, as though I understood even though there was a small part of me that didn’t. I didn’t have a decision. I had to listen to my mother. I had to quit the team. I could lose something much bigger than Quidditch if I didn’t listen to her.
James seemed to sense my unsureness. “Natasha, do you want to keep playing?”
I didn’t know. I never knew. That was the thing. I mean, sure I wanted to play. But I also wanted to please my mum and I wanted to be the daughter she loved. And sadly, that didn’t involve me playing Quidditch. I was kind of at a stand still as to how to make my decision.
“I want to be seeker,” I answered finally. “But my mum doesn’t.”
“Well then,” James said, letting out a grin as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s a good thing Headmistress Chang isn’t going to tell your mum that you've decided to stay on the team.”
And James said it like it was the easiest thing in the world, and because he did, I believed him. It was almost scary how quickly I agreed with James. As though nothing my mum had said mattered. But it was also freeing. Like I had the power to anything I wanted, not what my mum did.
“Okay,” I said simply.
I found myself come under the realization that having James in my life made everything seem a whole lot easier. Better. Happier.
“Okay,” James repeated, letting a smile come across his features. He really did have a nice smile.
And then… it was over. Problem solved.
Just. Like. That.
“I mean, the whole idea of it is really stupid to begin with,” Molly complained for the umpteenth time, pushing her eggs around her place furiously. Dom, Rose, and I all exchanged a look, clearly done with Molly’s complaints.
“Hogsmeade weekend is supposed to be a weekend full of spending time with your friends,” Molly continued, not sensing the fact that we were all tired of her spiel. “But it’s been forced into this idea where you can only go if you have a date, and Merlin forbid you decide to go alone. I’m sorry I don’t want to have to babysit some stupid guy the whole time when I could be doing what I want. But no, for some reason having a date is supposed to deem you as worthy, which is complete bullshit.”
Molly had been complaining for the past hour about Hogsmeade weekend, which just so happened to be in a matter of days. From what I had heard so far, Hogsmeade weekend consisted of couples going out together and meeting up at one of the many corny restaurants designed specifically for couples. Something, which I -of course -would never dream of doing. So, I couldn’t say I was really thinking about going.
“Hogsmeade doesn’t just have to be for couples,” Rose said, ever her soothing self. “My mum told me that back in her day, people would just go with their friends to shop and hang out.”
“That’s such a good idea, Rose!” Dom exclaimed looking around at the three of us. Rose’s eyes widened, clearly unsure what the idea that she had come up with was. “We should all go together as a group!”
“Have you been listening to me at all?” Molly asked, narrowing her eyes at Dom. “I hate Hogsmeade weekends. Why would I want to go to one?”
“Because it’d be fun!” Dom said, leaning forward with wide eyes. “We could all walk around together and shop and get good food at one of the millions of pubs down there. In fact, we should ask the guys if they want to come too! It’ll be like bonding time.”
“I think we do enough of that,” Molly said flatly. “I would much rather stay at the castle and watch paint dry.”
“Oh, Molly, you’re only saying that because you and Gryffin got into another one of your fights,” Rose said, giving Molly a look. “Don’t worry, you guys will make up by the weekend.”
“We never make up,” Molly responded, giving Rose a dirty look.
“What she means is you’ll be back to whatever you two usually are,” Dom intercepted.
“What did you guys even argue over?” I asked, my curiosity peaked.
Molly sighed. I would’ve taken offense to it if I hadn’t already been used to her by now. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
I raised my eyebrows. Complaining was one of Molly’s favorite things to do. They must’ve fought over something big. Rose and Dom seemed to sense this too, because they both exchanged a look before looking down at their plates.
“You sure?” I asked, still not believing that Molly was going to pass up an opportunity to complain.
Molly pressed her lips together and nodded. “Yup.”
“Good!” Dom said, clapping her hands together, clearly trying to switch the track of the conversation. “So it’s settled then. I’ll tell the group our Hogsmeade idea—”
“Your Hogmeade idea,” Molly responded bitterly.
“—And we’ll all go together,” Dom continued, unfazed by Molly’s interruption. “Sound good?”
“Sure,” I responded, nodding my head. Rose mumbled an agreement as well.
“Whatever,” Molly responded, standing up abruptly and causing her fork to clatter loudly onto her plate. “I have to go anyway. Gryffin and I still need to finish our stupid project before class, because the idiot didn’t show up yesterday.”
“Sounds like the Gryffin we know and love,” Dom responded back. Molly gave her another dark look.
“Speak for yourself,” Molly said tersely, before turning and walking out of the Great Hall.
Rose, Dom, and I remained silent as we watched her go. That is, until I broke the silence.
“I don’t know if it’s possible, but she seems more angry than usual,” I stated.
Dom shrugged. So did Rose. “It’s Molly.”
I nodded. I guess it was.
It wasn’t more than a day later when Dom’s entire Hogsmeade plan for us began to fall apart.
“Bad news,” Rose stated, as soon as she sat down on the armchair across from Dom and I in the Gryffindor common room. Dom looked up from the Quidditch magazine she was reading, while I looked up from the essay I was writing, wondering what Rose was going to say next. “I can’t go to Hogsmeade this weekend.”
“What?” Dom asked, immediately looking concerned at Rose’s words. She crossed her legs and leaned forward, tucking some of her silvery hair behind her ears as she did so. “Why not?”
“Prefect duties,” Rose said with a sigh. “And since Malfoy’s been covering for me for the past couple of weeks when it comes to patrols so that I can study, I promised I’d let him have the weekend off.”
“That’s not fair!” Dom exclaimed. “We’re supposed to all hang out together. As a group. To bond.”
“We don’t need to bond, Dom,” Rose said in a soothing voice. “We’re friends already. You’ll all be fine without me.”
“But this is Natasha’s first Hogsmeade weekend!” Dom whined. “We owe it to her to all be together for her first visit!”
“Dom, it’s okay,” I began, but she cut me off before I could say more.
“It’s not okay!”
“Well it’s going to have to be,” Rose stated. “A promise is a promise. Anyway, it’s not like I’m the only one who can’t go. Fred has to do an Arithmancy project this weekend, so he’s not going either.”
“What?!” Dom asked, her eyes widening. “I can’t believe he’s choosing homework over us!”
“Dom, don’t worry about it,” I began again, placing a hand on her shoulder. “It’s fine. Not everyone needs to be there. It’ll be just as fun with us, Gryffin, Scorpius, and Molly.”
No sooner had I spoken, then the portrait hole to the Gryffindor common room had opened, and two of the people I had just mentioned marched their way through. Neither of them looked happy.
“I cannot bloody believe you!” Molly exclaimed, her face full of rage as she pointed at Gryffin. “You are such an arsehole!”
“Don’t you think that’s the pot calling the kettle black?” Gryffin shot back, a vindictive grin on his face. “I mean it’s not like you were going to say yes to him. You reject everyone.”
“I don’t give a shit!” Molly shot back, her voice scathing. “I’d rather do the rejecting on my own, thank you very much. It’s not your place to meddle.”
“Oh, please,” Gryffin said, clearly not taking Molly’s words seriously, and instead looking angered himself. “Don’t act all self righteous. I know you’re the one who told Collette to say no when I asked her.”
“I was saving you!” Molly said, giving him a dirty look. “She’s a crazy bitch.”
“Funny. She reminds me of someone else I know,” Gryffin shot back.
“Oh, shove it,” Molly said, stepping closer to Gryffin and giving him a defiant stare. “I don’t give a shit what you bloody think of me!”
“Sure you don’t,” Gryffin replied. “Which is why you got so mad at me after I—”
“Shut up!” Molly exclaimed, cutting Gryffin off by clamping a hand over his mouth. “Don’t you bloody say anything more!”
“You can’t tell me what to do,” Gryffin responded, once he had broken free from Molly.
“Actually I can,” Molly responded flippantly. “And here’s what I’m telling you to do now: Stay away from me. I don’t want to see you or speak to you ever again. Now that our project is over, we have no reason to keep up this charade of being friends.
“Fine!” Gryffin shouted. “I was going to suggest the same thing anyway!”
“Great,” Molly shot back, emphasizing the word sharply. “I’m glad we’re on the same page then.”
“Me too,” Gryffin responded, pulling himself up to his full height, so that he was just a couple of inches taller than Molly (which not many guys were). “Extremely glad.”
“Couldn’t be gladder,” Molly said narrowing her eyes so tight that they were almost slits.
“Good!” Gryffin said. There was a pause as him and Molly continued to stare at each other. It was almost like the entire room had pressed pause, as they continued to erupt in their anger. Then Gryffin spoke again, his words shocking the entire room as he did so. “I’ll see you tomorrow in Hogsmeade. You owe me a date since you lost mine!”
“Fine!” Molly shouted back, and before any of us could register the scene that had just taken place, Molly turned and walked up the staircase to her dormitory, her footsteps clomping loudly as she went. The entire room remained silent, as we let what had just happened sink in.
“Did Gryffin just ask Molly out on a Hogsmeade date?” I asked, still unsure of what I had witnessed.
“More importantly, did Molly just agree?” Rose asked in response.
Dom sighed, before turning to me. “Looks like it’ll just be me and you tomorrow.”
“Yup,” I said, watching Gryffin as he stared after Molly, with a look I couldn’t quite place on his face. I expected him to look angry after him and Molly had just fought, but he seemed almost relaxed. I turned back to Dom as I remembered something. “And Scorpius.”
Dom let out another sigh, louder than the last one. I guess she had forgotten she had invited Scorpius as well. “Yes, you’re right. And Scorpius.”
So far, this Hogsmeade visit was already shaping up to be a good one.
“Wait, so Gryffin asked Molly out?” James asked, tilting his head in questioning. His face looked confused, even after I had just recounted the tale to him, so I nodded in response.
We were, yet again, on the Quidditch pitch, only today James hadn’t even bothered to do laps before we sunk into conversation. It was almost as if practicing Quidditch was just an excuse for us to have a reason to talk. And I liked talking to James. It sounds stupid, but I felt like I was someone completely different when I was with him. Someone I liked a lot more than the person I was.
“Yeah,” I said with a shrug. “I mean, kind of anyway. It was more of a screaming match that somehow resulted into them agreeing, but the end result is still that they’re going to Hogsmeade together.”
James nodded in understanding after I spoke, before shaking his head back and forth as a laugh. “That sounds like them alright.”
“It does, doesn’t it?” I said, letting out a laugh of my own. “I just can’t believe it’s actually going to happen. They’re like a game of exploding snap together.”
“Yeah, but it was kind of inevitable,” James said after a moment. I looked at him with an arched eyebrow, prodding him to continue. “I mean, I’ve known them both since first year, and Gryffin has always carried a bit of a torch for her.”
“Really?” I asked, surprise evident in my tone. “But they always pick on each other.”
James laughed. “Ah, but didn’t you know? Guys love doing that to girls they like. It’s a right of passage to manhood.”
Seeing as my experience with guys had been very limited up until Hogwarts, I didn’t actually know. But since admitting my cluelessness would be embarrassing, I played along anyway.
“Oh really?” I asked. “So what girl did you pick on?”
“Sarah Chaimberland,” James said, faking a dreamy sigh. “She had the Crayola Colors 64 pack. With the sharpener. It was love at first sight.”
“Well aren’t you easy to please,” I teased.
James shook his head. “Was. Now I’ve broadened my horizons.”
“What? Does she need to have silly putty too?”
“Oh Merlin, do you remember that stuff?” James asked, looking at me with a half smile as he reminisced.
“Of course I do,” I said with a laugh. “I mean, I am muggleborn. That was like the thing to have to guarantee friends.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot you were muggleborn,” James mused.
“That’s because I never told you.”
“That might be why I forgot then,” James said, which made me crack a smile. “So then that brings up the age old question: what did you like better, play doh or silly putty?”
“How do you know about all these muggle things?” I asked raising an eyebrow at James. “Last I recalled your parents are like as famous as it comes in the wizarding world. What are you doing playing with muggle toys?”
“It’s because of my dad,” James explained. “He grew up muggle so he always gave us stuff like that to make sure we remained integrated into that world. And also my granddad is really big on those things, so he always gives us random muggle gifts, although they’re mostly useless things like screwdrivers and what not.”
“I see,” I said. “I didn’t know once people were in the magic world they cared much about the muggle one. I know when I was introduced to magic I kind of left everything muggle behind.”
“But the muggle toys were always the coolest!” James exclaimed, seeming put to disbelief at my statement. “In fact, there’s this store in Hogsmeade that’s made up of entirely muggle things. We should go this weekend.”
Everything seemed to stop. For me at least.
“Together?” I asked, immediately taken aback by this turn in conversation. Did this classify as James asking me out?
“Generally that’s what ‘we’ means,” James responded, seeming to be holding back a laugh. My face began to feel warm and I looked down at my hands, trying to clear the millions of thoughts that were now running rampant over whether or not this qualified as a date.
No. This couldn’t be a date. We were just friends. I wasn’t allowed to date anyway, so I’d have to say no if it was. But… If I looked at it as just two friends hanging out, then I could say yes. Because that’s what it was anyway.
“Well, I guess I could go,” I said, looking up at James. “But I don’t know how Dom will feel about being stuck with just Scorpius at Hogsmeade.”
James laughed. “For some reason, I have a feeling neither of them will mind.”
I knew what James was referring to, and I had to agree as well. As much as Dom and Scorpius argued over anything Quidditch related, they got along extremely well otherwise.
“Well then, I think I need to head back to the castle,” I said suddenly feeling extremely tired. We’d been outside for a while now, and it was finally starting to sink in. “This week has totally drained me.”
“Alright,” James said, nodding his head as I got up. “I’ll meet you outside the Great Hall tomorrow at eleven?”
“Sure,” I said, offering a smile. I began to walk away, but before I fully made it off the field, James called after me.
“You never told me what you liked better: play doh or silly putty?” James said, which just caused me to laugh. It seemed such an unimportant detail to want to know.
“I’ll let you know,” I responded, not wanting to give him an answer before turning back around and walking away.
A/N: I am extremely sorry for how long this chapter took. Seriously, I am ashamed that it took me this long to update. It's just... with finishing my other story (which is completed! which is huge because I've never completed a story before) and starting college I've been putting updating this one off which I shouldn't have. Just please don't hate me and I hope I haven't lost any of you lovely readers, because you do mean the world to me.
And now with this chapter, lots of stuff has happened. Natasha's mum is angry, Molly and Gryffin are going to Hogsmeade together, and so are Dom and Scorpius (although not by their own doing) and James and Nata (!!!). What do you guys think of the developings? Do you like it? Should I stop?
Please review and let me know your thoughts, and thank you so much for sticking with me even with my terrible updates. The next chapter is done, so you won't have to wait long for it.
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